03 September 2007

Mary Worth

I mentioned once before Josh Ozersky at The Simpleton demonstrating that Mary Worth comic strips are actually in the Absurdist tradition.

An anonymous benefactor commented on that post, linking to the Comics Curmudgeon's commentaries on Mary Worth (and other strips as well).

Well, it turns out that the web is a-buzz with Mary Worth stuff.

The Curmudgeon isn't alone in commenting on strips. Bob Braughler at Subdivided We Stand Meets Marathon Man has the same act. So does Toonhead at A Perfect World.

A-List blogger Wonkette has a keen interest in keeping Mary Worth running in the pages of the Washington Post. She's a member of the Don't Cancel Mary Worth Coalition which of course has a website.

Mike Collins at 741.5 Comics is fascinated by its impenetrable storytelling continuity.

Miss a single episode of Mary Worth and the ongoing story makes no sense. Hell, read the strip for two months solid and it still makes no sense.

He apparently was using the strip in his own form of absurdist 5-Card Nancy. What's that? It's a game invented by Scott McCloud of Understanding Comics fame, in which you randomly arrange panels from a Nancy strip.

A Comic so simply drawn it can be reduced to the size of a postage stamp and still be legible; an approach so formulaic as to become the very definition of the “gag-strip”; a sense of humor so obscure, so mute, so without malice as to allow faithful readers to march through whole decades of art and story without ever once cracking a smile.

Nancy is Plato's playground. Ernie Bushmiller didn't draw A tree, A house, A car. Oh, no. Ernie Bushmiller drew THE tree, THE house, THE car. Much has been made of the “three rocks.” Art Spiegelman explains how a drawing of three rocks in a background scene was Ernie's way of showing us there were some rocks in the background. It was always three. Why? Because two rocks wouldn't be "some rocks.” Two rocks would be a pair of rocks. And four rocks was unacceptable because four rocks would indicate “some rocks” BUT IT WOULD BE ONE ROCK MORE THAN WAS NECESSARY TO CONVEY THE IDEA OF “SOME ROCKS.”

A Nancy panel is an irreduceable concept, an atom, and the comic strip is a molecule. With 5-Card Nancy we create new molecules out of Ernie's atoms.

But I digress. Because, you see, Mr Collins has commissioned software to create Worth cut-ups, which you can see if you follow the link.

Barry Alfonso at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette argues for the strip's charms.

The slightly doughy but innately elegant Mary embodies a civility that is fading out of real life. Moreover, the very pace of the strip conveys something profound .... Even by comic strip standards, Mary Worth moves at a leisurely pace—by comparison, the likes of Rex Morgan, M.D. hit the eyeballs with the velocity of a Jerry Bruckheimer action film. Like a Kabuki play, Mary Worth's stories unfold rather formally, marked by ritualized speech and poses.

It's the ritualized speech and poses that have me posting on this trivial subject. Because someone else has noticed the same thing, as used them as the focus of some disturbing dramatizations that have to be seen to be believed.

Update: The Post-Gazette’s Mr Alfonso writes in to comment.

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